Last-Minute Guide to the Updated CPA Exam

The updated CPA Exam makes its debut at the start of this month with an adjusted focus designed to continue to ensure that the candidates who pass it have the required knowledge and skills to protect the public interest. This article from Journal of Accountancy details everything you need to know about the updated exam.

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What VITA Means to Me

Blogger: Rachel McKenna

Signing up for the VITA Program, I had the expectation that I would be assisting families prepare their tax returns. I had heard about the program from my friends and read about the requirements through a previous TXCPA2B blog posting, but this was all new to me. Attending the training and hearing that other students had paid money to earn course credit for this was surprising, but little did I know they were not necessarily paying for the knowledge—they were making an investment in the experience.

Though sitting through 12-hours of training is not exactly my idea of ‘fun,’ I did come away with the basics that have given me a foundation for my volunteer shifts. I tutored other UT Dallas students in preparation for our certification exam in hopes that I could help them see that the certification was within reach. Additionally, as a campus VITA Representative, I have gotten valuable feedback on why some students do not finish the certification and why others will not stop until they do.

Personally, I completed all of the steps necessary to begin volunteering because my purpose in joining VITA as a first-year tax preparer was to simplify the process for families seeking our help. The trainers dedicated their time and the government is sponsoring the VITA Program for a reason—they have seen the ROI for the families that use this program. In my interactions with the clients I serve, this fact is evident.

Each client and I had something in common, and the similarities between our stories clarified that there was a reason I was there helping them. Though I feel as though I am just beginning this process as a VITA tax preparer, this experience has been an indispensable part of my college learning. Giving back in a way that allows me to use my skillset for the good of the community and serve in a meaningful way makes the time investment worth the effort.

Persevering and finishing what I started to become an IRS Certified Income Tax Preparer is one of the decisions I most pride myself in during my time in college. I recommend the program not for the purpose of having an extra line of content on your resume, but for the relationship-development aspect. As a VITA volunteer, you are part of a nationwide effort to improve the lives of other individuals, all while having fun! What more could you ask for?

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Network, Network, Network!

Blogger: Angie Wong

Networking is key. When I started college, I convinced myself I didn’t have to make new friends or talk to anyone else because I already knew so many people here. However, my group of friends was always changing. In addition, I found a student organization that I enjoyed participating in. Initially, when the officers in the student organization stressed how much networking could help a student, I was hesitant. I did not like the idea because I was comfortable in my little “box” and feared putting myself out there. As I progressed in my college education, I had friends who started pushing me to talk to professionals. Not only did I start making connections with professionals, but I also made new friends.

Networking in college can benefit you in many ways. For example, the more you speak with professionals, the more confident you become in speaking with other peers and other professionals. You will gain the confidence you will need when you graduate and start working full time anywhere. It may seem intimidating at first, but the more practice you get and the more people you talk to, the more confident and comfortable you will be.

Another way networking is beneficial is that you create these connections that you may continue to speak to throughout your career. They may come to your aid later in your career; for example, if you are looking for a new job, looking to connect a colleague to a specific company, field, or position, or if you want to learn more about other professions. These connections you create may also become close friends you keep in touch with in the future.

What is the first step you should take to start networking? You could join a student organization that allows you to make different connections, from your peers to professionals. This will give you the practice to become more comfortable with speaking to others.

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TXCPA2B Named One of the Top 100 CPA Blogs by Feedspot

Congratulations to TXCPA2B for being named one of the Top 100 CPA Blogs by Feedspot. A huge “thank you” to our wonderful University of Texas at Dallas student bloggers who continue to submit insightful, informative and well-written content for our blog. This honor wouldn’t have been possible without you! Also, thank you to our readers/subscribers for helping us make this list!

The full list of the Top 100 CPA Blogs can be found here.

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How to make yourself “marketable”

Student blogger: Mondal Kotak

Student blogger: Monal Kotak

I have often heard that you have to be marketable when you are looking for jobs, or, in other words, sell yourself. But what exactly is making yourself marketable, especially in accounting? If you are one of those people, like me, who actually love accounting, then you must be aware of the various career paths that we can choose from, and to land a job that you love is a boon. But doing all the right things is what will get you and me there.

Get a degree

You are already on the right track if you are going to college to get a degree, whether it is a bachelors or masters.  Getting a degree has numerous benefits. I was professionally developed, meaning, I learned not just about the academics, but also about how the industry works. More often than not, grad schools will have events where you can meet professionals from different fields of accounting. There are programs like VITA where you can get hands-on experience with taxation. There are projects where you have to perform work for actual companies. You learn how to operate in the business world even before you actually start working. Getting an accounting degree made me eligible for different certifications like CPA and CIA that will add value to my degree. That brings me to the next thing that we, as students, need in order to sell ourselves to the prospective employers.

Get certified

If you have set your eye on a particular career path, then adding a certificate that closely relates to that path will be a definite plus. When I talk to different accounting professionals, I always ask them about which certificate to go for, because let’s face it, there are a lot; and when is a good time to get it. The common answer throughout professionals from different paths is to get a CPA because it gives you an overall balance across different areas of accounting. About when to get it, there are mixed reviews. Some say get it while you are in college because it is easier to get it done when you are still in “study mode,” and that also gives you an edge over those who don’t have a certificate on their resume. Also, you tend to get busier when you start working full-time. The reasons for doing it after college were that it isn’t a requirement to get a job and that your employer might pay for it. But, if you really want to get a head start, I say go get that exam out of your way.

Get an internship

If you ever wonder why an entry level position asks for work experience, or how are you supposed to have experience when you are just out of college, then an internship is the answer. Not everyone is working full-time in the profession of their choice while they are still in school. And not everyone is aware of what career path they want to walk in for at least the next decade or two. An internship is the best way to try out the path you are interested in but are not sure if you can stick to it for years to come. It also sets a foundation for when you are ready for the real world experience after graduation. An internship will catch your future employer’s eye showing them that you have a serious interest in that job. I got two internships, one in internal audit and one in tax, again a benefit of being in college, and that has made me aware of what I will be looking for in my job after graduation.

Get involved in a student organization/student chapter

Not only does this show that you are socially active, but this is also a good platform to show leadership. Being the Research and Development Chair in the organization has helped me build my own team, learn management in my own small space, and take responsibility. These are some traits I could never have learned just by going to classes. Plus, you can have some stories built when you are a part of an organization, which can be good conversation starters.

We hear everyone saying how important networking is in today’s world. But networking will not come to our benefit if the package we are offering is not what the employers are looking for. Networking will work the best when tied with the qualities that are required in the professional world. So, let us go get groomed and get that professional life we desire.

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Improve Your Networking

Student blogger: Flor Morales

Student blogger: Flor Morales

Here is the only tip you need to improve your networking (as a student): It’s not about the job, it’s not about your resume – it’s all about your relationship.

We all have that stack of business cards for all the people we’ve met, but can’t bring ourselves to write an email to? Why? You can barely remember what you said, and you can’t find a reason to reach out to them.

After over two years, I’ve come to realize that the best connections I have right now are not because I impressed them with my resume.

We’ve all heard that we should “talk to everyone in the room.”  That might be a little tricky if you’re in a room of over a hundred people. The reality is – you’re not going to be remembered by everyone. Instead, hold as many conversations as you can in order to identify those with whom you do make a connection.

Afterwards, it will be so much easier to send a follow-up email talking about the interests you share.

Don’t wait until the last minute to reach out to someone. Start building those relationships now, and when the time comes for that letter of recommendation, you won’t have to remind them what to say.

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5…6…7…8… How Dance Made Me a Better Accountant

elaine-chen

Blogger: Elaine Chen

When I think of my childhood, I think of the previous 10+ years of my life I spent in a dance studio. As a dancer, I was trained in competitive dance and spent 15-20 hours of my week in classes and rehearsals. Friday nights and Saturdays were reserved for rehearsal, and if a show or competition was coming up, I was committed to rehearsals every day of the week.

As time went on, it became clear to me that I wasn’t meant for a career in dance. Now as an accounting graduate student, I often look back at those years I spent in dance and wonder if all that time, energy, and money were wasted. I now realize that the hours I spent in rehearsal pushing myself physically and mentally beyond my limits taught me more than dance technique. In fact, many of the valuable skills I learned as a dancer apply as an accounting student.

Endurance.

The blisters, bruises, and injuries taught me more than physical endurance. I had to first learn the skill of mental endurance before I could endure physical pain. Enduring pain and discomfort taught me to think BEYOND the current moment and to pursue the future reward. It wasn’t about the physical pain in the moment but the reward that I would benefit from in the future. In dance, the future reward was improved technique or flexibility. As an accounting student, the future benefit was a thorough understanding of the subject, better grades, and a more promising future.

Concentration.

When I was in the dance room, I didn’t have Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram around to distract me from what I should be focused on in the moment. In fact, in class and rehearsals, there was very little that could actually distract me from what I should be concentrating on. My dance teacher used to yell, “Stop thinking about what you’re having for dinner. Your mind should be here!”

Studies show that people are most efficient when there are no distractions and that multitasking actually inhibits your performance and productivity. Dance classes and rehearsals trained me to focus my full energy and mind on one thing in the moment and to ignore everything else. As a student, this applies to my study habits by forcing myself to ignore everything around me and to concentrate on the material in front of me. Dance trained me to use my full concentration by blocking out the distractions around me.

Team work.

One of the most important parts of a strong dance performance is the team’s ability to synchronize their dance movements and to perform coherently together as a team. In a truly well-coordinated performance, the group of dancers must react according to the movements of the leader up front and sync their movements according to the timing of the leader. If one dancer falls behind, that dancer impacts the rest of the group, and the remaining dancers must improvise and adjust accordingly. The final performance must come across as a well-coordinated and synchronized dance performance that is the product of hours of team effort and practice. Similarly in school and work, a successful final product or goal cannot be achieved without a great team.

Applying my experience as a group member of a dance team to my experience in school, I learned to select my group members carefully because each team member plays an important role in the performance and success of a group project. Similar to a dance performance, the dynamics of every team required me to react according to the skill level and talents of each individual team member. In a well-coordinated team, each member supports and complements each other in a different way. From my past experiences as a team member in dance, school, and work, I learned that a truly functional and supportive team is an efficient and effective one.

There is a saying that goes “knowledge is power.” I would argue that the ability to apply that knowledge is what makes knowledge powerful. Simply put, it’s not about what you know – it’s about how you apply what you know.

Ultimately, anything you learn from one experience can be applied to another. The skills I learned from years of dance practice trained and prepared me to become a better accounting student and employee. I now realize that those ups, downs, thrills, and struggles from each of my past experiences shaped me into the person I am today. While accumulating knowledge can make you a “powerful” person, the ability to apply that knowledge provides a much more valuable skill. The key is to realize that none of your past experiences were wasted and to apply what you have already learned and practiced to anything you are striving toward today.

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